(Currently on exhibit at the V&A, London, September 18 - November 28, 2021)
In January 2020 Sofia Karim, collaborating with activists, initiated Turbine Bagh - a joint artists’ movement against fascism and authoritarianism focusing on India and Bangladesh.
“India was in the grip of mass protests sparked by anti-muslim citizenship laws. The Turbine Bagh movement emerged around a protest we planned for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. The protest has been postponed due to COVID-19, but the movement continues.
Turbine Bagh is a UK based platform for resistance working with artists and activists across the world. It focuses on human rights in India and Bangladesh.
‘Turbine Bagh’ is a reference to Shaheen Bagh, the women led protest in Delhi which was the epicentre of the resistance prior to COVID-19 lockdown. Led mainly (but not only) by Muslim women, Shaheen Bagh challenged patriarchy but also western stereotypes of the ‘muslim woman’. It was the largest women-led resistance movement of our time. Yet few in the UK seem to know about it.
Our intention was to raise awareness and join the struggle. The word ‘bagh’ means garden. For one day we would make the civic space of the Turbine Hall our ‘garden’. A space for peaceful dissent.
Over the last year, Turbine Bagh has been involved in campaigns for political prisoners in India and Bangladesh. It began as a joint artists’ movement against fascism and authoritarianism, through the humble and familiar object of the samosa packet, and it continues.
Events in India are the latest wave of a hard-line Hindu supremacist agenda and a wider project to create a Hindu nation based on Bhraminical Hindutva ideology.
We are now at a precipice. The world’s largest secular democracy has turned into a fascist, Hindu supremacist state with relative ease. That is ominous and should be a lesson to the world.
The Hindutva project has been unfolding for many years prior to these citizenship laws. Kashmir - its autonomous status revoked by the Indian government in August 2019 - has become a prison, resembling occupied Palestine. The detention camps in Assam, terrifying in their vastness, are not being built for nothing.
The president of Genocide Watch, Gregory Stanton, said in December 2019:
“The persecution of Muslims in Assam and Kashmir is the stage just before genocide. The next stage is extermination—that’s what we call a genocide.”
Home Minister Amit Shah calls Bangladeshi illegal immigrants “termites’’ and has vowed to “pick up infiltrators one by one and throw them into the Bay of Bengal.”
In February 2020 a pogrom against Muslims took place in Delhi, coinciding with Trump’s visit. At the ‘Namaste Trump’ rally crowds wore Trump and Modi masks. In his speech to the masses Trump endorsed the Modi regime and declared fundamentalist Islam to be the common enemy. The next day as the two leaders dined, Hindu supremacist mobs burned citizens alive, identified Muslim men by circumcision, and desecrated mosques while police stood by. Some Muslims fought back.
In May 2019 UK Home Secretary Priti Patel congratulated 'our dear friend’ Modi on his election victory. In October 2019, former leader Tony Blair who waged a War on Terror to “free” the world of religious fundamentalism, met Modi in Delhi with other architects of the Iraq war.
Things have worsened under COVID-19 lockdown with mass arrests of intellectuals, students, and activists. Police brutality is normalised.
The signals are clear.
Are we going to speak out now, or look away?”
Follow Instagram @turbinebagh_art for details.